House District 61 candidate profile: For Hamner, education, economy and environment on the forefront
October 21, 2012
Editor’s Note: The five House District 61 candidates’ profiles will run in alphabetical order. Debra Irvine, Robert Petrowsky and Ellen Temby’s profiles will run in Tuesday’s SDN.
After being appointed to her current position nearly two years ago, state Rep. Millie Hamner is fighting three challengers to keep it because “there’s a lot more work to be done.”
“I’ve caught the bug and I see what the issues and problems are, and I have some ideas for solutions,” she said.
If elected to continue representing House District 61, Hamner’s top priorities are education, wildfire prevention and tourism. Two projects she’s excited about – which she has already been approached about carrying legislation for – are improving the teacher and principal preparation programs and revising the school finance act, which governs how schools are funded.
Hamner, a Democrat, is also concerned with getting Interstate 70 flowing properly and safely – which she said benefits the state’s tourism – and doing more to ensure public safety through wildfire mitigation and forest health projects.
“I’ve served successfully for the last two years,” she said. “Almost every bill that I’ve introduced has been signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper.”
Among her past successes, she counts the K-3 literacy bill – which helps ensure children are able to read by third grade – and two more she said have a positive impact on the environment: one promoting beetle-kill wood for biomass energy, and another continuing a program providing resources for communities to use in wildfire mitigation and other forest-health projects.
Asked what she would regret if not elected come Nov. 6, Hamner said the inability to enact her ideas, like those in education.
“There’s still more work to be done,” she said.
On education issues, Hamner feels lucky to be able to have a positive impact on students across Colorado – when she started her career as a Colorado teacher in 1978 (she most recently served as the superintendent for Summit School District) that impact only reached the 20 or so children in her classroom, she said.
“I take that very seriously … when I’m able to carry a piece of legislation for students and teachers that affects student learning, that makes me very proud,” Hamner said.
In her almost two years as representative, Hamner said she’s learned what it takes to be an effective legislator, something she feels gives her a leg-up over her competitors. That includes being able to get other legislators on her side – from across the aisle, or in the form of her own democratic colleagues. When she carried the literacy bill, she faced opposition at first from some Democrats, and had to work to build that support, she said.
Hamner said her record of getting “almost every bill that I’ve introduced signed into law” was no easy feat, especially considering she was a freshman and served in the minority party.
“I had to work extra hard with my colleagues, especially my Republican colleagues, to get anything passed …” she said.
When it comes to creating jobs, Hamner ties both education and tourism into the mix. Colorado’s students need to be prepared to effectively move into the workforce, which is tied to investing in Colorado’s schools, she said. She feels the state also needs to find more ways to tap into the tourism market – attract more people to the state, and more from the Front Range to the mountain communities – in order to create more jobs. She fears if traffic flow isn’t improved on I-70, it will have a negative impact on the tourism industry. Hamner pointed to a bill she carried in her first year on the job, which “put I-70 short-term solutions on the front burner.”
Hamner supports the work Gov. Hickenlooper does to attract businesses to the state.
“When Colorado’s economy is doing well, the state budget fares well,” she said. “The more business that we can attract to Colorado, the more sales tax revenue that we have, the more income tax that we have … that helps the whole state economy.”
Hamner was born in Tokyo – her father was stationed there after WWII – but grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Her two goals growing up were to become a teacher and move to Colorado; She’s been in the state since 1978, and currently lives in Summit County. Hamner and her husband, Rich Holdman, have been married since 1985.
Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who previously served in the state House, is a supporter of Hamner’s bid to keep her current position.
“Millie has a proven track record of working to find common sense solutions to our state’s most pressing issues,” Gibbs said. “She understands the importance of quality education for our kids, a vibrant economy and healthy forests. Millie has been a strong advocate for our mountain values.”